March 22, 2005

Tinderbox Tutorial

Alwin Hawkins has written a fine new Tinderbox tutorial, describing ways to make a smarter journal.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes, my first thought was about how I was going to keep track of all the informations that I was going to collect - in particular, all the blood sugar results I was going to collect. I quickly rolled a personal diabetic tracking tool in Tinderbox, with notes color-coded to help spot patterns or trends in the numbers.

After looking at what I had done, I realized that I had a pretty simple exemplar of how to use a combination of attributes, agents, and actions to make a simple Tinderbox application. I am going to recreate the first part of it here, step by step, as a sort of "beginner's guide" to using some of the power contained in the Tinderbox application.

This is a terrific example of an important aspect of Tinderbox, adding some custom computation to augment conventional notemaking. Smarter notes let you do things like automatically highlight unusual blood sugar readings, so it's easier to find patters and detect trends. But, at the same time, you're not locked into a rigid system of dialogs and forms, so the journal remains pleasant to use and easy to adapt to changing needs.